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MANCHESTER UNITED

Why would tens of thousands of Manchester United fans forsake their beloved red and white for green and gold? Simple: this is the biggest business protest in European soccer at the moment.

The United fans are donning the original colours of the club in support of a consortium of rich investors in their bid to oust the incumbent Glazer family, whom they blame for the precarious nature of the club’s finances. The Red Knights consortium is preparing a £1.25 billion takeover but the Glazers say the club – which they bought for £830m in 2005 – is not for sale.

The Sunday Times’s business focus assesses the potential significance for the world of soccer in general if the bid succeeds.

“It could signal the end of an era when top names such as United, its rival Manchester City and Chelsea became tycoons’ playthings, wallowing in an excess of players’ wages and shocking debt.”

The Florida-based Glazers it seems have used it as a “private piggy bank”, according to the newspaper. Manchester United’s debts have soared as quickly as their burgeoning ticket prices.  They are not alone in this – the English Premier League’s 20 clubs owe more combined than the rest of Europe’s top divisions put together. The debt for the 2008 season stood at £3.4bn, 56% of the European total.

They can only pray that Rupert Murdoch’s Sky TV revenues continue to flow.

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